encouraging note from a church planter …

This note reflects a lot of the important issues I sense are “out there” – especially relating to the need for integral or holistic understandings of the gospel, church, Christian life, spiritual formation, etc. In this way, my three recent books – Secret Message of Jesus, Everything Must Change, and Finding Our Way Again – together seek to strike an important balance. This is shared (and edited for privacy) with permission:

Hey there… just wanted to drop you a quick note of gratitude. I finished reading your book “Finding Our Way Again” last week, and have spent this week going back through it a chapter or two a day and writing out the most provocative, inspiring, and compelling thoughts. I try to read a lot to keep learning and growing, but it has been a long time since i have met God in such a deep way through a book. But that is what has happened through this work.

His letter continues …

A large part of it is due to where i am in my own journey. I started [this church] just over 6 years ago now in a poor, ethnic neighborhood in Chicago. Much of it was driven by a sense that God was calling me to deeper understandings or reconciliation and social justice, and my frustration [with so many churches] in not having that part of our faith expression. But what has happened since has been really interesting and unexpected. The ethos of our faith body is now squarely shaped around reconciliation and community development, which i wasn’t expecting to happen so quickly. But somewhere along the way we lost a sense of a personal dimension of faith: relationship with Jesus, a concern for sin and holiness, a flourishing prayer life, the need to read Scripture, being led by the Spirit, etc.
It has been bizarre and a new experience: When i preach on the topics that were ignored in my upbringing i get a rousing ‘Amen.’ When i preach on the need for personal redemption, transformation, and walking with God in prayer my people look at me like i am crazy. They don’t necessarily disagree, but they can’t shake the feeling that what i am calling them to is the kind of religion they are running from.
That is one of the many reasons this book has ministered to me so deeply. I feel like i have been trying to put better words to holistic ministry, because that phrase doesn’t seem to capture it with our people. When i saw your diagram of the triangle with missional, contemplative, and communal practices working in harmony together i practically broke into my own worship service. This has been my sincere struggle. I believe deeply in justice and the work of God in this world, and that is mostly what i preach about. But i feel like there are these invisible forces that are trying to force me to choose between being missional and caring deeply about walking with God in a personal way. I am fighting it in my own life, and i am trying to find language for the struggle as i speak to my community.
This book has broken open a new language for me in how to pray with God, how to better integrate the worldview and posture i want to move with, and how to better organize my thoughts and understanding for speaking to [this new faith community]. So for that i am unbelievably grateful! It has been so great to watch your ascension as a voice for the next generation of faith, and how you have continued to receive that with humility and grace, and how you have been able to continue to absorb the pounding of those who range from cordially disagreeing to just mean-spirited slander without lashing out or becoming cynical. You have been a great inspiration and mentor through your model and writings.
So, thanks! No need to respond – i just wanted to let you know of one person that God has really ministered to through your writings.

This gifted young leader understands what too few people “get” – that there is no social transformation without personal transformation, and no personal transformation without social transformation … and that key theological terms like “salvation” and “gospel” fully and beautifully integrate and embrace both.

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